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The Ghost Busters 1.14 – Merlin, the Magician

There’s an incredibly odd little casting choice here. Huntz Hall reprises his role as Gronk from episode eight, but neither he nor the Ghost Busters acknowledge that they’ve met before. You’d think that would be worth a mention, “you again?” or something. I suppose that the director and the stars enjoyed working with him, and since they needed a similar “low intelligence sidekick” for Merlin, they asked him back without altering this episode’s script beyond noting the character’s name.

Daniel giggled all through the opening scene, in which Spencer informs Tracy that the prize of the gorilla’s rock collection is actually a dinosaur egg. They decide it needs to be kept somewhere very, very safe, and if you don’t predict that Kong will end up sitting on the egg, then you must be my son’s age.

Guest stars this week are Carl Ballantine, who had played Lester on McHale’s Navy for several years, as Merlin, and Ina Balin, who had dozens and dozens of one-off roles (including five different ones on Quincy, M.E.) but never a starring part, as Morgan Le Fay. Ballantine plays Merlin as Sid Caesar doing a frustrated stage magician, and Balin is note-perfect as the icy and humorless villain. In a complete reversal of the usual formula, Merlin and Gronk want to be dematerialized and sent back to “the beyond,” but the incompetent Merlin zaps the ghost dematerializer into Morgan’s hands.

The climax is also really funny. Morgan casts a spell that makes any man who makes eye contact with her freeze, not realizing that Tracy is a gorilla. He keeps a whipped cream pie in his magic bag, saving the day. Earlier, we saw that Tracy had bagpipes, tartans, and a tam o’shanter in his bag, so the pie comes as no surprise.

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The Ghost Busters 1.8 – Which Witch is Which?

Daniel didn’t quite get upset with this episode, but he did fret a little bit. Ann Morgan Guilbert, playing the Witch of Salem, puts Tracy in a trance and has him march around doing her bidding. He pouted and curled up next to me, worried about the big ape. Then, because her dimwit assistant, with the terrific name of Gronk, has messed up the concoction in her cauldron, her next spell accidentally swaps Tracy’s mind with Spencer’s. This leads to the odd sight of Bob Burns’ ape costume’s mouth opening and closing for human speech to be dubbed over the movements. I didn’t expect that, but it relieved Daniel tremendously to see some more dopey slapstick.

Overall, this wasn’t quite as entertaining as the previous episodes, although there is a great bit where Spencer lobs an invisible book – The Life of Claude Rains – over his shoulder and breaks a vase. Huntz Hall is endearingly stupid as Gronk; it’s tough to decide whether Gronk or Spencer is the bigger dimwit.

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